A Statler Brother’s Thoughts On the Performer’s Vocation

I’m preparing an article on the Statler Brothers, the most popular country music group of all time, for my sorely neglected series on Christians in Entertainment. I was inspired to write about them by their thoroughly enjoyable book Random Memories, which is indeed a walk down random memory lane. It’s full of great anecdotes and wisdom, and for a variety of reasons, I’d say it’s pretty clear they did it without a ghost writer. I was struck by the great balance of humor and honesty they brought to their reflections on the stardom they achieved. Here Harold Reid shares some candid thoughts on what it was like to balance their dream job as country music stars with the mundane rhythm and hum of home life. The parts about getting stopped in Wal-Mart for an autograph are uniquely applicable to those who “make it” at the level the Statlers did, but I’m sure a lot of this rings true for anyone who performs for a living:

“Life is like Halloween; you can be anything you want if you wear your costume well.” That quote pretty much sums up most people’s lives. We all have to change “hats” from one part of our life to another. Everyone wears their “work hat,” but on the way home each day you change to your “home hat.” We’re no different than the butcher, the baker, or the candlestick maker. It’s just that some day sit’s easier to change that hat than others. If you don’t change when you’re supposed to, you’re as out of place as a corduroy tuxedo.

Entertainers tend to become what their public wants them to be: carefree, fun-loving, and always ‘up’ and in a good mood. That’s great! It’s the way it should be, but when you get home it’s time to take out the trash, drive the kids to school and mow the grass. That’s great, too. But it’s an adjustment.

There’s a little secret I’ll share. There have been nights on stage when we sang two complete songs and I didn’t even remember what they were. I was thinking about one of the kids back home who had gone to the doctor that day or a piano recital I was missing at that very hour or even a fight I’d had that afternoon on the phone with someone I loved. Right place—wrong hat.

It also works the other way. I’m at a Wal-Mart shopping with my family, trying to keep up with three or four kids, well aware I’m supposed to smile and be pleasant with everyone who makes eye contact. Someone stops me, wants an autograph and tells me a long, long story about an operation their mother-in-law had before she passed away ten years ago. I grope for the right words, sign my name, but they go off feeling cheated because they feel they didn’t have my full attention. They simply caught me with the wrong hat on. (Random Memories, pp. 112-113)

Now just for fun, here’s Harold’s short list of things he dreaded from the fans:

1. Sitting in a restaurant knowing eighteen people have recognized you and each of them is waiting for the other one to approach you for an autograph. You see, it’s easier if you ain’t the first one to ask.

2. Taking a picture and posing with three strangers while the fourth one fumbles with a camera she’s never seen before. I’m hollering, “Hurry up,” and the large one who forgot to bathe is hugging my left arm and saying, “Take your time.”

3. Walking into a truck stop; a trucker stops you and grants himself five guesses as to who you are and wants you to wait till he can call his wife on the phone so she can talk to you. His universal comment is, “Oh, God, my wife ain’t gonna believe this.” Some days neither do I.

4. And last but certainly not least, the autograph request from someone who is obviously glad to see me, excited to have run me down, and is squealing at the top of her voice but assures me that she is not a fan but has chased me two city blocks to get something signed for her sister-in-law. When I start to write and ask the sister-in-law’s name, the answer is usually, “Just make it out to me.” I’ve always been proud to have fans. I’ve never understood why they were ashamed to be one.

That last one is a major ouch!

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